|Official name||سد الثورة|
|Construction cost||US$340 million|
|Dam and spillways|
|Type of dam||Earth-fill dam|
|Height||60 m (197 ft)|
|Length||4,500 m (14,764 ft)|
|Width (base)||512 m (1,680 ft)|
|Inactive capacity||11.7 km3 (2.8 cu mi)|
|Surface area||610 km2 (236 sq mi)|
|Turbines||8 x 103 MW Kaplan-type|
|Installed capacity||824 MW|
The Tabqa Dam (Arabic: سد الطبقة), or al-Thawra Dam as it is also named (Arabic: سد الثورة, literally dam of the revolution), is an earth-fill dam on the Euphrates, located 40 kilometres (25 mi) upstream from the city of Ar-Raqqah in Ar-Raqqah Governorate, Syria. The dam is 60 metres (200 ft) high and 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) long and is the largest dam in Syria. Its construction led to the creation of Lake Assad, Syria's largest water reservoir. The dam was constructed between 1968 and 1973 with help from the Soviet Union. At the same time, an international effort was made to excavate and document as many archaeological remains as possible in the area of the future lake before they would be flooded by the rising water. When the flow of the Euphrates was reduced in 1974 to fill the lake behind the dam, a dispute broke out between Syria and Iraq that was settled by intervention from Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union. The dam was originally built to generate hydroelectric power, as well as irrigate lands on both sides of the Euphrates. The dam has not reached its full potential in either of these objectives.
In 1927, when Syria was a French mandate, it was proposed to build a dam in the Euphrates near the Syro–Turkish border. After Syria became independent in 1946, the feasibility of this proposal was re-investigated, but the plan was not carried out. In 1957, the Syrian government reached an agreement with the Soviet Union for technical and financial aid for the construction of a dam in the Euphrates. Syria, as part of the United Arab Republic (UAR), signed an agreement with West Germany in 1960 for a loan to finance the construction of the dam. After Syria left the UAR in 1961, a new agreement about the financing of the dam was reached with the Soviet Union in 1965. A special government department was created in 1961 to oversee the construction of the dam.
Originally, the Tabqa Dam was conceived as a dual-purpose dam. The dam would include a hydroelectric power station with eight turbines capable of producing 824 MW in total, and would irrigate an area of 640,000 hectares (2,500 sq mi) on both sides of the Euphrates. Construction of the dam lasted between 1968 and 1973, while the accompanying power station was finished in 1977. Total cost of the dam was US$340 million of which US$100 million was in the form of a loan by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union also provided technical expertise. During construction, up to 12 thousand Syrians and 900 Russian technicians worked on the dam. They were housed in the greatly expanded town near the construction site, which was subsequently renamed Al-Thawra. To facilitate this project, as well as the construction of irrigation works on the Khabur River, the national railway system (Chemins de Fer Syriens) was extended from Aleppo to the dam, Ar-Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, and eventually Al-Qamishli. The four thousand-some Arab families who had been living in the flooded part of the Euphrates Valley were resettled in other parts of northern Syria. This resettlement was part of an only partially implemented plan to establish an "Arab belt" along the borders with Turkey and Iraq in order to separate Kurds living in Syria from Kurds living in Turkey and Iraq.
Dispute with Iraq
In 1974, Syria started to fill the lake behind the dam by reducing the flow of the Euphrates. Slightly earlier, Turkey had started filling the reservoir of the newly constructed Keban Dam, and at the same time the area was also hit by significant drought. As a result, Iraq received significantly less water from the Euphrates than normal, and complained that annual Euphrates flow had dropped from 15.3 cubic kilometres (3.7 cu mi) in 1973 to 9.4 cubic kilometres (2.3 cu mi) in 1975. Iraq asked the Arab League to intervene but Syria argued that it received less water from Turkey as well and refused to cooperate. As a result, tensions rose and Iraq and Syria sent troops to their shared border. Iraq also threatened to bomb the Tabqa Dam. Before the dispute could escalate any further, an agreement was reached in 1975 by mediation of Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union whereby Syria immediately increased the flow from the dam and reportedly henceforth agreed to let 60 percent of the Euphrates water flow into Iraq. In 1987, Turkey, Syria and Iraq signed an agreement by which Turkey was committed to maintain an average Euphrates flow of 500 cubic metres (18,000 cu ft) per second into Syria, which translates into 16 cubic kilometres (3.8 cu mi) of water per year.
Rescue excavations in the Lake Assad region
The upper part of the Syrian Euphrates valley has been intensively occupied at least since the Late Natufian period (10,800–9500 BC). Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European travellers had already noted the presence of numerous archaeological sites in the area that would be flooded by the new reservoir. In order to preserve or at least document as many of these remains as possible, an extensive archaeological rescue programme was initiated during which more than 25 sites were excavated.
Between 1963 and 1965, archaeological sites and remains were located with the help of aerial photographs, and a ground survey was carried out as well to determine the periods that were present at each site. Between 1965 and 1970, foreign archaeological missions carried out systematic excavations at the sites of Mureybet (United States), Tell Qannas (Belgium), Habuba Kabira, Mumbaqa (Germany), Selenkahiye (Netherlands), and Emar (France). With help from UNESCO, two minarets at Mureybet and Meskene were photogrammetrically measured, and a protective glacis was built around the castle Qal'at Ja'bar. The castle was located on a hilltop that would not be flooded, but the lake would turn it in an island. The castle is now connected to the shore by a causeway.
In 1971, with support from UNESCO, Syria appealed to the international community to participate in the efforts to salvage as many archaeological remains as possible before the area would disappear under the rising water of Lake Assad. To stimulate foreign participation, the Syrian antiquities law was modified so that foreign missions had the right to claim a part of the artefacts that were found during excavation. As a result, between 1971 and 1974, numerous excavations were carried out in the Lake Assad area by Syrian as well as foreign missions. Syrian archaeologists worked at the sites of Tell al-'Abd, 'Anab al-Safinah, Tell Sheikh Hassan, Qal'at Ja'bar, Dibsi Faraj and Tell Fray. There were missions from the United States on Dibsi Faraj, Tell Fray and Shams ed-Din-Tannira; from France on Mureybet and Emar; from Italy on Tell Fray; from the Netherlands on Tell Ta'as, Hadidi, Jebel 'Aruda and Selenkahiye; from Switzerland on Tell al-Hajj; from Great Britain on Abu Hureyra and Tell es-Sweyhat; and from Japan on Tell Roumeila. In addition, the minarets of Mureybet and Meskene were moved to higher locations, and Qal'at Ja'bar was further reinforced and restored. Many finds from the excavations are now on display in the National Museum of Aleppo, where a special permanent exhibition is devoted to the finds from the Lake Assad region.
Other dams in the Syrian Euphrates valley
After the completion of the Tabqa Dam, Syria built two more dams in the Euphrates, both of which were functionally related to the Tabqa Dam. The Baath Dam, located 18 kilometres (11 mi) downstream from the Tabqa Dam, was completed in 1986 and functions as a floodwater control to manage the irregular output of the Tabqa Dam and as a hydroelectric power station. The Tishrin Dam, which functions primarily as a hydroelectric power station, has been constructed 80 kilometres (50 mi) south from the Syro–Turkish border and filling of the reservoir started in 1999. Its construction was partly motivated by the disappointing performance of the Tabqa Dam. The implementation of a fourth dam between Ar-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor – the Halabiye Dam – has recently been initiated with an appeal to archaeologists to excavate sites that will be flooded by the new reservoir.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on 11 February 2013 that the dam was captured by the Syrian opposition in their fight against the government. As of May 2013 the village near the dam, Al-Thawrah, is occupied by the Uwais al-Qarni Brigade. Four of the dam's eight turbines are operational and the original staff continues to manage the dam. Workers at the dam still receive pay from the Syrian Government and fighting in the area will temporary cease if repairs are needed.
Characteristics of the dam and the reservoir
The Tabqa dam is located on a spot where rocky outcrops on each side of the Euphrates Valley are less than 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) apart. The dam is an earth-fill dam that is 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) long, 60 metres (200 ft) high from the riverbed (307 metres (1,007 ft) above sea-level), 512 metres (1,680 ft) wide at its base and 19 metres (62 ft) at the top. The hydroelectric power station is located on the southern end of the dam and contains eight Kaplan turbines. The turbines' rotation speed is 125 RPM, and they can potentially generate 103 MW each. Lake Assad is 80 kilometres (50 mi) long and on average 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) wide. The reservoir can potentially hold 11.7 cubic kilometres (2.8 cu mi) of water, at which size its surface area would be 610 square kilometres (240 sq mi). Annual evaporation is 1.3 cubic kilometres (0.31 cu mi) due to the high average summer temperature in northern Syria. This is high compared to reservoirs upstream from Lake Assad. For example, the evaporation at Keban Dam Lake is 0.48 cubic kilometres (0.12 cu mi) per year at roughly the same surface area.
Neither the Tabqa Dam nor Lake Assad is currently used to its full economic potential. Although the lake can potentially hold 11.7 cubic kilometres (2.8 cu mi), actual capacity is 9.6 cubic kilometres (2.3 cu mi), with a surface area of 447 square kilometres (173 sq mi). The proposed irrigation scheme suffered from a number of problems, including the high gypsum content in the reclaimed soils around Lake Assad, soil salinization, the collapse of canals that distributed the water from Lake Assad, and the unwillingness of farmers to resettle in the reclaimed areas. As a result, only 60,000 hectares (230 sq mi) were irrigated from Lake Assad in 1984. In 2000, the irrigated surface had risen to 124,000 hectares (480 sq mi), which is 19 percent of the projected 640,000 hectares (2,500 sq mi). Due to lower than expected water flow from Turkey, as well as lack of maintenance, the dam generates only 150 MW instead of 800 MW. Lake Assad is the most important source of drinking water to Aleppo, providing the city through a pipeline with 0.08 cubic kilometres (0.019 cu mi) of drinking water per year. The lake also supports a fishing industry.
Research indicates that the salinity of the Euphrates water in Iraq has increased considerably since the nearly simultaneous construction of the Keban Dam in Turkey and the Tabqa Dam in Syria. This increase can, among other things, be related to the lower discharge of the Euphrates as a result of the construction of the Keban Dam and the dams of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) in Turkey, and to a lesser degree of the Tabqa Dam in Syria. High-salinity water is less useful for domestic and irrigation purposes.
The western shore of the lake has developed into an important marshland area. On the southeastern shore, some areas have been reforested with evergreen trees including the Aleppo pine and the Euphrates poplar. Lake Assad is an important wintering location for migratory birds and the government has recently undertaken measures to protect small areas along the shores of Lake Assad from hunters by downgrading access roads. The island of Jazirat al-Thawra has been designated a nature reserve.
- Hunt 1974
- Kaya 1998
- Shapland 1997, p. 110
- Bourgey 1974, pp. 345–346
- Adeel & Mainguet 2000, p. 214
- Shapland 1997, p. 109
- Bourgey 1974, p. 348
- Hughes 2008
- Anonymous 2009, p. 11
- McDowall 2004, p. 475
- Kalpakian 2004, p. 108
- Shapland 1997, p. 117
- Frenken 2009, p. 345
- Wolf 1994, p. 29
- Kangarani 2005, p. 65
- Scheumann 2003, p. 745
- Inan 2000
- Akkermans & Schwartz 2003, pp. 28–32
- Wilkinson 2004
- Bell 1924, pp. 39–51
- Bounni 1977, p. 2
- McClellan 1997
- Reichel 2004
- Bounni 1977, pp. 2–3
- Bounni 1977, p. 4
- Bounni 1977, p. 6
- Altinbilek 2004, p. 21
- Collelo 1987
- Jamous 2009
- "Syria crisis: 'Powerful' minibus explosion kills 13", BBC News (BBC), 11 February 2013, retrieved 12 February 2013
- Malas, Nour (30 May 2013), "Syrian Rebel Held Dam Churns Out Power, Thanks In Part to Regime", Wall Street Journal, retrieved 30 May 2013
- Bourgey 1974, p. 349
- Bourgey 1974, p. 351
- Elhadj 2008
- Jones et al. 2008, p. 62
- Mutin 2003, p. 4
- Krouma 2006
- Rahi & Halihan 2009
- Murdoch et al. 2005, pp. 49–51
- Anonymous (2009), Group denial. Repression of Kurdish political and cultural rights in Syria (PDF), New York: Human Rights Watch, OCLC 472433635
- Adeel, Zafar; Mainguet, Monique (2000), "Summary Report of the Workshop", New Approaches to Water Management in Central Asia, United Nations University/ICARDA, pp. 208–22 Missing or empty
- Akkermans, Peter M. M. G.; Schwartz, Glenn M. (2003), The archaeology of Syria. From complex hunter-gatherers to early urban societies (ca. 16,000–300 BC), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-79666-0
- Altinbilek, Dogan (2004), "Development and Management of the Euphrates–Tigris Basin", International Journal of Water Resources Development 20 (1): 15–33, doi:10.1080/07900620310001635584, ISSN 1360-0648
- Bell, Gertrude Lowthian (1924), Amurath to Amurath, London: Macmillan & Co, OCLC 481634750
- Bounni, Adnan; Lundquist, J. M. (1977), "Campaign and exhibition from the Euphrates in Syria", The Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 44: 1–7, ISSN 0066-0035, JSTOR 3768538
- Bourgey, André (1974), "Le barrage de Tabqa et l'amenagement du bassin de l'Euphrate en Syrie", Revue de Géographie de Lyon (in French) 49 (4): 343–354, doi:10.3406/geoca.1974.1658, ISSN 1960-601X
- Collelo, Thomas (1987), Syria: A Country Study, Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, OCLC 44250830
- Elhadj, Elie (2008), "Dry aquifers in Arab countries and the looming food crisis", Middle East Review of International Affairs 12 (3), ISSN 1565-8996
- Frenken, Karen (2009), Irrigation in the Middle East region in figures. AQUASTAT Survey - 2008 (PDF), Rome: FAO, ISBN 978-92-5-106316-3
- Hughes, Hugh (2008), Middle East Railways, AlMashriq, retrieved 14 December 2009
- Hunt, Carla (1974), "Last boat to Tabqa", Saudi Aramco World 25 (1): 8–10, ISSN 1530-5821
- Inan, Yüksel (2000), The law of international water courses and the Middle East (PDF)
- Jamous, Bassam (2009), "Nouveaux aménagements hydrauliques sur le Moyen Euphrate syrienne. Appel à projets archéologiques d'urgence" (PDF), Studia Orontica (in French) (DGAM), retrieved 14 December 2009
- Jones, C.; Sultan, M.; Yan, E.; Milewski, A.; Hussein, M.; Al-Dousari, A.; Al-Kaisy, S.; Becker, R. (2008), "Hydrologic impacts of engineering projects on the Tigris–Euphrates system and its marshlands", Journal of Hydrology 353: 59–75, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2008.01.029, ISSN 0022-1694
- Kalpakian, Jack (2004), Identity, conflict and cooperation in international river systems, Aldershot: Ashgate, ISBN 978-0-7546-3338-9
- Kangarani, Hannaneh M. (2005), Euphrates and Tigris watershed. Economic, social and institutional aspects of forest in an integrated watershed management (PDF), Rome: FAO, OCLC 444911461
- Kaya, Ibrahim (1998), "The Euphrates–Tigris basin: An overview and opportunities for cooperation under international law", Arid Lands Newsletter 44, ISSN 1092-5481
- Krouma, I. (2006), "National Aquaculture Sector Overview. Syrian Arab Republic. National Aquaculture Sector Overview Fact Sheets", FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department (FAO), retrieved 15 December 2009
- McClellan, Thomas L. (1997), "Euphrates Dams, Survey of", in Meyers, Eric M., The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Ancient Near East 2, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 290–292, ISBN 0-19-506512-3
- McDowall, David (2004), A modern history of the Kurds, London: I.B. Tauris, ISBN 978-1-85043-416-0
- Murdoch, D. A.; Vos, R.; Abdallah, A.; Abdallah, M.; Andrews, I.; al-Asaad, A.; van Beusekom, R.; Hofland, R.; Roth, T. (2005), A Winter Survey of Syrian Wetlands. Final Report of the Syrian Wetland Expedition, January – February 2004, London: privately published, OCLC 150245788
- Mutin, Georges (2003), "Le Tigre et l'Euphrate de la discorde", VertigO (in French) 4 (3): 1–10, doi:10.4000/vertigo.3869, ISSN 1492-8442
- Rahi, Khayyun A.; Halihan, Todd (2009), "Changes in the salinity of the Euphrates River system in Iraq", Regional Environmental Change 10: 27–35, doi:10.1007/s10113-009-0083-y, ISSN 1436-378X
- Reichel, Clemens (2004), "Appendix B: Site gazetteer", in Wilkinson, Tony J., On the margin of the Euphrates. Settlement and land use at Tell es-Sweyhat and in the Upper Lake Assad area, Syria (PDF), Oriental Institute Publications 124, Chicago: Oriental Institute, pp. 223–261, ISBN 1-885923-29-5
- Scheumann, Waltina (2003), "The Euphrates issue in Turkish–Syrian relations", in Brauch, Hans Günter; Liotta, P. H.; Marquina, Antonio; Rogers, Paul F.; Selim, Mohammed El-Sayed, Security and environment in the Mediterranean. Conceptualising security and environmental conflicts, Berlin: Springer, pp. 745–760, ISBN 3-540-40107-5
- Shapland, Greg (1997), Rivers of discord: international water disputes in the Middle East, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-312-16522-2
- Wilkinson, Tony J. (2004), On the margin of the Euphrates. Settlement and land use at Tell es-Sweyhat and in the Upper Lake Assad area, Syria (PDF), Oriental Institute Publications 124, Chicago: Oriental Institute, ISBN 1-885923-29-5
- Wolf, Aaron T. (1994), "A Hydropolitical History of the Nile, Jordan and Euphrates River Basins", in Biswas, Asit K, International Waters of the Middle East: From Euphrates-Tigris to Nile, Oxford University Press, pp. 5–43, ISBN 978-0-19-854862-1